iQOO Z5 5G review: a compelling VFM mid-ranger that cuts both ways

The iQOO Z5 comes across as an all-rounder. But is it for you?

Review Summary

Expert Rating3.5/5

Design
★★★★★
★★★★★
Display
★★★★★
★★★★★
Software
★★★★★
★★★★★
Camera
★★★★★
★★★★★
Performance
★★★★★
★★★★★
Battery
★★★★★
★★★★★

Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Charges quickly
  • Good performer
  • Excellent haptics

Cons

  • Main sensor clicks oversharpened images
  • Sub-par display

iQOO’s 2021 smartphone run has been fortuitous so far. The company’s phones have received sterling reviews from critics and audiences alike, on account of the fact that iQOO-branded devices usually undercut the competition significantly, or offer never-seen-before features that make them stand out. The brand’s latest handset, the iQOO Z5, builds upon the company’s value-oriented philosophy too, and is the most affordable phone to be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 778G processor. But, is that enough to warrant a purchase? Or is there more than meets the eye with the iQOO Z5? Let’s find out in this review. 

Verdict

The iQOO Z5 is not perfect and the company has cut a few corners to bring the price of the phone down. Provided you can look past the handset’s shortcomings, you’ll find plenty to like about the Z5. Else, the market is ripe with VFM mid-rangers.

Design

iQOO has been operational in the country for just a year and change, though the company’s design craftsmanship suggests otherwise. I say this, because much like its brethren, the iQOO Z5 looks the part of a premium product. The handset comes in two different colours, including Mystic Space and Arctic Dawn. I was sent the former for review and as its moniker suggests, the back of the phone gives the impression of a starry galaxy whenever light impacts it. A fringe benefit of the same is that the finish, albeit slippery, keeps smudges at bay so you need not worry about dirtying the phone when using it without a case. 

That said, if you don’t trust your clumsy self, then iQOO does bundle a transparent TPU case with the phone, allowing you to safeguard your purchase the minute you take it out of the box. Coming back to the design of the phone, the iQOO Z5 feels quite premium in the hand, which can be accredited to the unit’s heft. In fact, at 193g, the Z5 is the heaviest Snapdragon 778G phone, and that’s despite the fact that the device has been constructed in its entirety using plastic. Thankfully, the Z5 doesn’t feel top-heavy and the smartphone’s toggles have been ergonomically positioned too. 

To that note, the device ships with a capacitive fingerprint sensor and a volume rocker on its right-hand spine. I’d like to add that both, the fingerprint sensor as well as the phone’s facial recognition tech worked stupendously well during my testing. As for the rest of the I/O, you’ll also get a headphone jack with the phone that has been positioned up top. Towards the bottom, the device features a Type-C port for charging, along with a SIM tray and a speaker grille. 

Credit where credit’s due, iQOO has improved upon the Z3‘s (review) inadequacies with the Z5 too. To that note, the iQOO Z5 offers clicky haptics that won’t go unnoticed by serious typists. Furthermore, the smartphone also betters its predecessor’s audio setup and ships with dual speakers that get plenty loud for watching movies on the fly. I’d also like to add that the Z5 touts a smaller punch-hole notch, as opposed to the Z3’s waterdrop notch, thereby ensuring it looks fancy any which way you look at it. 

Display

The iQOO Z5’s display isn’t spectacular, but it gets the job done. Specs-wise, the smartphone ships with a 6.67-inch, FHD+ LCD panel that refreshes at 120Hz. Furthermore, the display offers a peak brightness of 480 nits, and comes with HDR 10 certification too. Now, as prefaced previously, the Z5’s display is nothing to write home about and it’s evident that the company has cut corners here – the viewing angles are a bit narrow and the darker hues don’t appear as captivating as they would on an AMOLED screen. What’s more, I would’ve liked to see a brighter screen as the panel’s peak brightness doesn’t cut it when it’s sunny outdoors. And, much like other iQOO phones, the Z5 can’t stream HDR content so buyers eyeing the phone will have to contend with HD streaming only. 

On the bright side, the panel is quite snappy and offers a touch sampling rate of 240Hz. And, sure enough, I didn’t notice any input-related issues whilst gaming on the phone. Furthermore, the display is quite big, ensuring you have an accommodating surface to multitask, play games or watch movies as well.

Cameras

The iQOO Z5 features a triple camera setup towards the back comprising a 64MP GW3 sensor that works alongside an 8MP ultrawide angle lens and a 2MP macro shooter. For selfies, the device gets a 16MP selfie camera up front. 

The iQOO Z5’s main sensor clicks passable photos during the day. While I like the colours captured by the device as they don’t steer too far away from how the scene actually looked, it’s hard to overlook instances of oversharpening in the frame. In fact, if you look at the images in the gallery below, then you’ll notice that almost all photos tend to have dark outlines around the leaves and the edges of the buildings. That said, I should add that the Z5 brings out the shadows in the composition rather well. Moreover, despite clicking photos with the phone under extremely sunny conditions, the device managed to keep highlights in check too. 

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The wide-angle photos look good too and offer ample sharpness around the centre and the edges of the frame. I did notice instances of purple fringing creep up, but you will have to pixel-peep to make any note of it. As for selfies, the smartphone’s 16MP front camera clicks good photos that are replete with details. That said, despite turning off all the beautification features, the Z5 still couldn’t reciprocate my skin tone to a tee. On the bright side, the phone’s portrait mode works rather well and the handset infallibly mapped my face and blurred the background. You can even vary the intensity of the bokeh effect, which is nice. 



Coming to the lowlight stills, the Z5 managed to bring out a considerable amount of detail in the scene with the night mode enabled. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of noise in the frame too, so night owls should find the phone’s main camera to their liking. As for videos, the smartphone can shoot clips in up to 4K at 30fps. Unfortunately, you’ll have to bring down the resolution to 1080p to record videos in 60fps. I did test the 1080p60fps output from the smartphone’s sensor and I was quite happy with the results on offer – the footage was quite stable despite the lack of OIS and the elements in the frame didn’t appear oversharpened either. 

Performance and Software

The iQOO Z5 is the most affordable Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G-powered device. Making matters even more interesting, the phone features speedy UFS 3.1 storage and LPDDR5 memory as well. So, how does it perform? Well, to no one’s surprise, the handset outputted impressive numbers in synthetic benchmark applications. Take GeekBench, for instance, wherein the device yielded 804 and 2,997 points for single-core and multi-core tests. In Antutu benchmark, the handset outputted a total score of 5,65,013 points which, once again, is on par with similarly-specced phones. What’s more, the smartphone’s speedy storage came in clutch in AndroBench wherein, the device managed to yield sequential read and write speeds of 1512MB/s  and 1228MB/s respectively. In layman’s terms, the Z5’s storage speeds are neck and neck with much pricier flagships.

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Now, I will admit – the POCO X3 Pro (review) is still the best gaming phone under Rs 25K, but the iQOO Z5 is no slouch either. In fact, the handset can comfortably run CoD Mobile at High graphics and Max frame rate, or Very High graphics and Very High frame rate. Buyers looking to pick up the phone to play BGMI will find plenty to like here too, with the device running the title at HDR graphics and Ultra frame rate presets, or Smooth graphics and Extreme frame rate presets. I didn’t run into any dramatic frame drops whilst playing games on the phone either and the smartphone, for the most part, kept the temps at bay too. In fact, in our CPU Throttle test, the device throttled to just 85 percent of its peak performance.

It should come as little surprise then that the iQOO Z5 is a capable daily driver too. Be it opening apps, jumping between different utilities, or just using the phone to browse social media platforms, the Z5’s performance seldom inhibited my usage. Rest assured, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G is an extremely capable chip and iQOO’s inclusion of speedy storage and memory has really paid dividends here. 

Software-wise, the iQOO Z5 boots Funtouch OS v12 which is based on Android 11. If this is your first rodeo with the custom skin, then you should know that the UI feels fairly stock-esque, albeit comes bundled with a ton of bloatware. Unfortunately, as is the case with every iQOO phone, the interface doesn’t offer a ton of customisation options – I really hope the same is added in the upcoming Android 12 update. Other than that, the UI offers a slew of utilities including screen on and off gestures, an Ultra Game mode toolkit that automatically clears system resources whenever you launch a game, and a built-in app encryption feature that lets you password-protect select apps on your phone. 

As for connectivity, the iQOO Z5 offers support for both 2.4GHz as well as 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. I also tested the phone on my 4G Airtel SIM in Delhi NCR and got respectable download and upload speeds. That said, the handset doesn’t support NFC, so make of that what you will. Moving on, the phone’s 5,000mAh battery should see most moderate users through the end of a workday. Of course, your mileage will vary if you plan on playing a lot of games on the phone. On the bright side, the device ships with a 44W fast charger that can completely top-up the phone in an hour and fifteen minutes, which is great.

Final Verdict 

The iQOO Z5 starts at Rs 23,990, and for the price, is a worthy option as it performs well and offers a good-looking, robust design. What’s more, the handset charges reasonably quickly too, offers loud stereo speakers and snappy biometrics. Of course, those looking for the best gaming phone will find it hard to turn a blind eye to the POCO X3 Pro. Moreover, folks who enjoy watching movies on their phones will be better off with the Realme GT ME (review), which costs more, albeit ships with an AMOLED display. Lest I forget, the Xiaomi Mi 10i (review) is still the best camera phone under Rs 25K. 

Clearly, the iQOO Z5 has a lot of competition, but I still feel confident in recommending the phone as it offers a well-rounded package that will suit most buyers. Do let me know which phone you would pick if you had a budget of Rs 25K in the comments below and as always, stay tuned to our blog for more tech coverage. 

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5 

Pros:

  • Stylish design 
  • Good performer 
  • Charges quickly 
  • Excellent haptics

Cons:

  • Main sensor clicks oversharpened images
  • Sub-par display